Are you taking stock of the past year and looking forward to 2003? If you’re feeling concerned about your ability to reach your goals, you’re not alone. The problem I see far too often is the business owner who feels overwhelmed because things are happening too fast and there’s not enough time to follow through. Or they’ve become immobilized because their market has dried up. What can be done to bring these challenges into perspective and gain control?

Think like a leader.

Business Leadership NOW! That’s the cry across the nation for businesses both large and small. As a business owner, by default, you are the leader of your business. You can either ignore the impact of the role and bear the consequences or grab the reins and choose your destiny.

As a coach working with small business owners for almost 8 years I’ve seen the difference it makes when entrepreneurs consciously choose to function as leader and learn to apply the fundamentals of good business practice.

I base my work on what I call the Prime Strategies. These are the strategies that lead to a strong and profitable business in any economic environment. These are also the strategies that allow the entrepreneur to gain a sense of control over business results.

Learn the Prime Strategies and how to use them.

There are six strategies I consider critical to be understood and applied on a consistent basis.

Clarify Vision and Mission
Develop Goals
Create a Strategy to Achieve your Goals
Write a Plan to Fulfill your Strategy
Act on your Plan
Monitor Results

I think of these as a cycle, starting with the most abstract — your business vision and mission. The next step toward realizing the vision is to carry out your mission using a strategy with goals as interim targets that can be quantified. Your plan identifies the specific actions that will carry out your strategy and should include the costs to do so. An important part of the planning process is to identify what expenses must be incurred in order to create the results you want.

Of course, the most important part is the action – actually taking those specific sequential steps that you’ve committed to your calendar. Once you’ve acted, the most tangible part of the process, your financial statements, will tell you whether or not your plan worked. It’s important to review and analyze this information so you’re in a position to make better, more informed business decisions. Repeated on a periodic basis, this cycle will lead to realization of your vision.

Learning how to apply these strategies isn’t second nature to most small business owners, but the knowledge and skill can be transferred easily to those who are open to new ideas and ready to learn.

Use the expertise and perspective of others.

Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely lot. The ultimate decision and responsibility always falls to us. Bad decisions can be very costly, but making no decision can be just as costly.

By nature we feel we know what to do and can do it all ourselves. That’s a hurdle that all entrepreneurs must overcome in order to grow, thrive and prosper. We tend to hold on to jobs that would better and more cost effectively be completed by someone else. Once we identify our strengths and our limitations and give ourselves permission to get help, we can reach out to others when our needs are outside our core expertise.

Here are some of the ways to expand your capabilities and your horizons.

– Outsource and Contract for Services
It’s possible to build a sizable business using only outsourced and contract services. Contracting for expertise or services is a way many small businesses are growing without having to make huge capital commitments.

– Create an Advisory Board
I recommend either a formal or informal Advisory Board of trusted colleagues who can give you valuable perspective from different vantage points. Your payment to them is their opportunity to gain from the interaction with you and the other experts on your Board.

– Become an Expert in your Network
Most of us underutilize our Network. I know from personal experience that I was slow to activate my network. Since doing so, however, I’m seeing a renewed interest in my work. I’ve become clearer about the expertise I offer and am taking active steps to make it available to my network.

– Poll your Market
Your customers, prospects and even your competitors can be a great source of valuable information and a reference for distinguishing yourself in your market. Ask them and listen to the answer.

– Tap your Inner Circle
Not everyone can benefit from working with a coach, even though I’m partial to that method, of course. I rarely meet an entrepreneur who has used a business coach who doesn’t highly value their accomplishments with their coach. Building your own small business development group might be the perfect choice for you, however. The most important thing is that you create a core inner circle on whom you can rely for truthful and constructive feedback.

What the economy needs now are small business leaders; those who are building strong and profitable businesses for themselves while contributing to the economic well-being of the 21st Century.

Jim Blasingame says in the December 16, 2002 issue of The Small Business Advocate,
“Write this on a rock…the 21st Century is the Century of the Entrepreneur.”

Are you armed with what you need to lead your business to success and profit? Where will you be this time next year? If you’re feeling unsure, get the help you need NOW and assure your place in the Century of the Entrepreneur.